Separately, the Chief of the Defence Staff, General Sir David Richards, paid tribute to Commander Eddie Grenfell Royal Navy (Retired) during a special ceremony at Portsmouth’s Guildhall for his service on the Arctic Convoys, as he was not able to travel to London.
The Prime Minister said:
There are lots of extraordinary people I have met in this room in the last 3 years and lots of events I have been very proud to hold, but I can’t think of a group of people that I am more proud to have in Number 10 Downing Street. I am only sorry that it has taken 70 years to get to here and to say thank you for what you did.
You were involved in the most important struggle of the last 100 years when you were supplying one of our allies in the battle to defeat Hitler and to defeat fascism in Europe. You are a group of heroes. Thank you!
CDS presented Commander Grenfell with the first Arctic Star medal, after the veteran spearheaded the 16-year campaign for recognition of the perilous Arctic Convoys and other operations in the Arctic Circle during the Second World War.
Commander Grenfell, who served on 4 convoys to Russia, also received a letter from the Prime Minister congratulating him on his medal. He said:
It is a wonderful day and I am very pleased to be able to receive this medal. It is just sad that so many of my colleagues are no longer with us to receive their medals.
General Sir David Richards said the Arctic Star was a medal to celebrate and commemorate the bravery of a special group of men:
It is truly humbling and we are all in awe of what you achieved. I’m delighted both personally and professionally to present the very first Arctic Star on behalf of the Queen, the Armed Forces, and indeed the whole nation.
The campaign for the recognition of those who took part in the Arctic Convoys has received sustained public support and national media coverage over the years, with a Downing Street petition in 2004 receiving 42,000 signatures.
It was CDS’s personal wish to present the award to Commander Grenfell as he was unable to make the main ceremony.
Mr Cameron also awarded 24 veterans the Bomber Command Clasp.
Bomber Command operated from the first day of the War in Europe to the last. Of the approximately 125,000 aircrew who served in the Command 55,573 were killed.
Mr Cameron said:
On behalf of the whole country I want to thank you for what you did all those years ago. It is an incredible thought for my generation, who’ve had to suffer so little, to think of the extraordinary odds that you faced and the incredible sacrifice of the Bomber Command crews.
It’s worth remembering just some of the reasons why today’s decision is so justified. Bomber Command was one of the few commands that flew missions from the very start of the war, to the very end of the war. Bomber Command was absolutely vital in defeating Nazi Germany and in saving our continent for freedom.
We’re very grateful for what you did, we’re sorry that it’s taken 70 years to recognise properly the full scale of the action, the courage, the bravery and the sacrifice that you showed, but we’re proud to say that today and to thank you for all you did for our country, for our freedom and for our safety. Thank you.